CRAIG CONLEY (Prof. Oddfellow) is recognized by Encarta as “America’s most creative and diligent scholar of letters, words and punctuation.” He has been called a “language fanatic” by Page Six gossip columnist Cindy Adams, a “cult hero” by Publisher’s Weekly, and “a true Renaissance man of the modern era, diving headfirst into comprehensive, open-minded study of realms obscured or merely obscure” by Clint Marsh. An eccentric scholar, Conley’s ideas are often decades ahead of their time. He invented the concept of the “virtual pet” in 1980, fifteen years before the debut of the popular “Tamagotchi” in Japan. His virtual pet, actually a rare flower, still thrives and has reached an incomprehensible size. Conley’s website is
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The Right Word

Today — November 28, 2015 (permalink)

—Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre
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"The Lord uplifts his awful hand / And chains you to the shore."  From A Practical Grammar by Stephen Watkins Clark, 1847.

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November 21, 2015 (permalink)

From A Practical Grammar by Stephen Watkins Clark, 1847.

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November 18, 2015 (permalink)

This is the preferred way to write the magic word excelsior.  From Hill's Album of Biography and Art, 1887.

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November 14, 2015 (permalink)

Here's some visual poetry in the wild, from The Intellectual Status of Children Who Are Public Charges, 1915.

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November 11, 2015 (permalink)

"And naughty word that sounds like Damn / Escapes upon the evening air."  From Jenny by Hómer Michael Faustinetti, 1883.

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November 10, 2015 (permalink)

As you know, the letter n is used to mean an unspecified variable, but if you wish to write "A to n" (like "A to Z," but to mean "A to anything") then the letter N would be misleading (as it might be taken to indicate the exact range between the letters A and N), so this is how to do it, as revealed in A Little Spasm at the Home of Wolfgang Mozart. Being a Sketch Printed from What Is (Supposedly) the Original Manuscript of the Little Journey to Mozart, 1901.

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November 5, 2015 (permalink)

Here's the proper way to spell "higgledy piggledy," from Mistura Curiosa by James Archibald Sidey, 1886.

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October 26, 2015 (permalink)

We celebrate how Webster's dictionary used to be truly practical — back when it covered (counterclockwise from the top left) tritons, phrenology, the zodiac, the Colossus of Rhodes, satyrs, dragons, unicorns, Pan, and Atlas (the Greek god, not the maps).  Here's to Webster's Practical Dictionary, 1906, for covering topics to which we daily devote ourselves.

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October 16, 2015 (permalink)

"The king of shadows loves a shining mark."  From A Practical Grammar by Stephen Watkins Clark, 1847.

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October 7, 2015 (permalink)

No one practices "fulosphy" anymore.  It's very nearly a Googlewhack.  From Dicks' English Library of Standard Works, 1884.

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October 5, 2015 (permalink)

Here's one simple way to change a negative outlook into a positive one, as revealed in The Carolyn Wells Year Book of Old Favorites and New Fancies for 1909.

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October 4, 2015 (permalink)

Here's one way to diagram a sentence about a fairy-like creature emerging from a portal.  From Community English by Mildred Flagg, 1921.

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October 3, 2015 (permalink)

We tend to appreciate palindromic book titles.  Here's This and That, and That and This by Charles Josiah Adams, 1919.

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September 15, 2015 (permalink)

We checked, and we're pleased that our one and only bit of advice to writers is a Googlewhack.  The only other person to have said this is the poet Eric Pankey, in The Journal of the Virginia Writing Project (Winter 2004): "Change all similes to metaphors."  A simile, with that pesky word "like," "draws attention to itself as a simile" (which we ourselves say but which we found quoted elsewhere because things sound better when others say them, such as John Bird in Mark Twain and Metaphor, 2007, or, perhaps even better, S. J. Harrison in "Meta-Imagery: Some Self-Reflexive Similes in Latin Epic": "[a simile] draws attention to its own formal status as a comparison"). 
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September 11, 2015 (permalink)

Jonathan Caws-Elwitt reports:

Wibderfyk is the word that appears when a touch-typist attempts to type wonderful with his or her right hand situated one position farther to the left than it's supposed to be.  Once having discovered it, the erring typist may find this word irresistible, and may make a point of deliberately substituting it for wonderful.

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September 5, 2015 (permalink)

Thanks to the reviewer over at Amazon who rated our Hexopedia four stars: "Interesting read!  So far, the effects are subtle, but they are there."
Meanwhile, here's a page from the book, revealing the forgotten secret of bibliomancy:

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August 14, 2015 (permalink)

"God alone knows the power of an adjective, especially in new, tropical countries." —Machado de Assis, Epitaph of a Small Winner

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August 12, 2015 (permalink)

"Goativity," from Stock Designs of Book Division Inserts, 1922.

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August 8, 2015 (permalink)

This is how to spell coyote.  From B. C. 1887: A Ramble in British Columbia by James Arthir Lees. 1888.

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Original Content Copyright © 2015 by Craig Conley. All rights reserved.